The trickle of U.S. cable channels launching in the United Kingdom is turning into a flood.
Viacom subsid MTV Networks announced plans Wednesday to create British versions of VH-1 and Nick at Nite, which will start broadcasting via the Astra satellite early in 1994.
This will complete the lineup of Viacom channels available in the U.K.: MTV Europe has already been on air for six years, and Nickelodeon is currently preparing a British service for launch Sept. 1.
“The significance of the deal for MTV Networks is that we’ll have all of our existing trademarks up and running in another country (by April 1994),” said Tom Freston, chairman/CEO of MTV Networks.
Other American cablers launching this fall include the Family Channel, QVC, the Cartoon Network and TNT. TCI’s United Artists Programming is also expanding its British presence by moving Discovery Europe, Bravo and Country Music TV onto Astra, and launching a new service, UK Living, in partnership with Thames TV and the BBC.
Most of these channels will be sold to Astra viewers as part of a single subscription package costing T6.99 ($ 11) a month, and containing up to 20 different stations. Only MTV Europe, the Cartoon Network and TNT have yet to complete deals to join the package, which is being managed by the dominant U.K. satellite TV company, British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB).
New paid packages
Currently, Astra viewers receive basic services such as the Children’s Channel, UK Gold and BSkyB’s Sky One and Sky News free of charge. But from Sept. 1 these will be available only by subscription to the pay package.
VH-1, broadcasting 24 hours a day, will be managed from MTV Europe’s existing London base. Unlike its established sister channel, it will be targeted solely at British audiences, and will also be skewed toward an older demographic — 25- to 49-year-olds — rather than MTV’s 16- to 34-year-old bracket. VH-1 will be music-based, but will also offer comedy and lifestyle programming, like its U.S. counterpart.
Nick at Nite will be operated by the new joint venture company which was created by Viacom and BSkyB to create the British version of Nickelodeon. As in the United States, it will come on air when Nickelodeon closes down.